Thursday, 18 December 2008

Peter Pan - Richmond Theatre

Peter Pan by J.M Barrie
Adaptor: Peter Denyer and Fenton Gray
Director: Fenton Gray
Reviewer: Diane Higgins

Having vivid memories of a childhood visit to the Scala Theatre in London to see J.M. Barrie’s ‘play’ Peter Pan, it was with mixed feelings that I arrived at Richmond Theatre to see the 2008 ‘Panto’ production of the same name. But I need not have worried, as I found this production to be just the right mix of classic J.M.Barrie and traditional pantomime antics.

The opening scene in the nursery, with Simon Callow as Mr.Darling and Helen Hobson as Mrs.Darlingand, their children Wendy, Michael and John introduced us to the Darling family and to Nana the dog, their nursemaid. It was well played in classic style without the need for music or singing. Exit the Darling parents, with an anxious Mrs. Darling worried that her children will be spirited away, without the banished Nana to guard them.

Through the window entered a flying Peter Pan, played by Bonnie Langford, famed for her dancing and well suited to this acrobatic role. I found Bonnie, on the whole, a rather disappointing Peter Pan, apart from her excellent, athletic, flying routines. She appeared rather ‘stiff’ in her role and seemed to overact somewhat. For me I felt that she never became a ‘real’ plausible Peter Pan. Enter Captain Hook (Simon Callow) to a chorus of resounding hissing and booing, he had the exact measure of this part, he was a perfect Hook, with a menacing presence and a ‘big’ voice. Tony Rudd, as Smee, Hook’s sidekick and chief pirate was brilliant. He combined his pirate role with that of the panto ‘entertainer’. In this role he used both jokes (with only a ‘light’ sprinkling of ‘double-entendres’) andvery good and clever impersonations, which were understood and enjoyed by all the audience, young and old alike. Like Hook, he built up an excellent rapport with the audience. He was aided and abetted by his four young co-pirates, who were all talented and well organised in their slapstick and engaging sing-along’s with the audience.

Cut to the exotic creatures of the Neverland, the Crocodile, Doodoos, Pinkutan, Funky Monkey, Hogwart, and Lima Horne. These creatures were excellent at providing us with dance and colour, their costumes were fantastic. They immediately endeared themselves to the younger audience. The lost boys all played their parts well, as did Michael and John and the Red Indians, who were led by Helen Hobson, as chief squatting cow, with her lovely and very powerful singing voice. Samantha Clifford, as Wendy, developed into her part as the panto progressed, her acting also being enhanced by a good singing voice.

Both the costumes and sets were very, very good. The Darling’s nursery was from the original J.M.Barries’ era, matched in quality by the pirate’s ship and the lost boy’s house in Neverland.

One great disappointment was the appearance of Tinkerbell on ‘film’? as a flighty fairy. I thought she seemed to be overlooked, as the film sequence took away the magical feel and there was no ‘stardust’ to help in the flying process. A small moving light, in the classical way, is all a child’s imagination needs ~ if they believe in fairies.

Overall, I thought this was a very good production, with a clear story, good music and dance and a really excellent well rehearsed and well balanced cast. It moved at just the right pace and every scene followed smoothly from the last. It was a pantomime which all the audience, both young and old really enjoyed.
Real family entertainment !!
Photos: Tristram Kenton
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